MVC-FD71 Digital Mavica
to use - and with floppies!
Digital cameras are
becoming quite commonplace, and it isn't hard to see why. They're easy
to use, don't require film purchasing or processing, they give you instant
pictures quicker than you can say "Jack Robinson" (or anything
else, for that matter), and you can generally correct flaws (via software)
that may have inadvertently crept into your shots.
The only real problems
we've had with digital camera is that you need a colour printer and good
quality paper if you want to make prints (if you don't care about that,
of course, this is no problem) and that you generally need a spare serial
port for downloading the photos into your computer.
This serial port question
can be a real hassle to digital camera users who may have only one serial
port (besides their modem) and whose mouse is plugged into it: you have
to unplug your mouse to plug in the camera, and this makes navigating
your screen and operating your software very difficult. In fact, we've
tried one camera whose software requires a mouse, so
we found it impossible to get the pictures into our computer once the
mouse was unhooked. We ended up using a video capture card, feeding the
signal into the card via a VCR, which was such a pain in the neck that
we only tried it once to make sure it was possible, then said "to
hell with it" and sent the camera back.
Sony, always an innovator,
has come up with a nifty product that addresses this interfacing problem
head on - and in a simple and straightforward way. The MVC-FD-71 "digital
Mavica" stores its images onto conventional 3.5 inch floppy disks,
the same type you use (albeit less and less, thanks to CD-ROM's) on your
personal computer. Not only does this mean that downloading photos into
your computer is as easy as copying files from a floppy to a hard drive,
it also means the number of pictures you can take in a session is limited
only by the number of floppies you bring, and the life of the "Mavica's"
For this alone, this
camera should go down in history for its thoughtful and consumer-friendly
But there's more.
The MVC-FD71 is a
light and fairly slim unit (it's bigger than some digital cameras, but
that isn't necessarily a flaw) whose Sony-developed disk drive (called
"Quick Access 2x") works twice as fast as a conventional drive,
speeding up the storing and playing back of images. Still, saving an image
is slower than with some other cameras: the capture is virtually instantaneous
(just press the shutter button fully and "presto!"), but then
comes the whirring and chugging of the drive as it compresses and saves
the image. But we're only talking about a few seconds here.
You can store up to
40 images on a floppy, thanks to the camera's use of the JPEG compression
standard. Most of our images came in at less than 60 kb, which is a pretty
good use of space! The pictures are recorded at 640x480 VGA resolution,
which isn't the best you can get but which is probably adequate for most
uses, especially if you're just going to publish the pics on the Internet.
If you're really concerned
about picture quality, you can use "non-compressed mode," which
will eat up the floppies (but who cares, they're cheap and portable, right?)
but which gives higher resolution images.
And thanks to "Whole
disk copy," you can share your pictures right on the spot. All you
have to do is select that feature and the camera copies all the images
from the floppy disk into a temporary memory; put in a blank disk, and
the camera dumps the images back onto it.
There's no optical
viewfinder with this camera. Instead, Sony has built a little 2.5 inch
LCD screen onto the back of the unit, much like Sharp uses on its Viewcam
camcorders. This is fine until you're shooting outdoors in bright sunlight,
at which time the LCD washes out and becomes very difficult to see. You
can adjust its contrast to a certain extent, but we found the LCD almost
unwatchable under certain bright conditions. It was probably our only
real complaint about this product.
When you can
see the LCD, it gives you a very good representation of what you're going
to shoot (and you can also play back your pictures - instantly - using
the LCD as a monitor), though it feels a bit strange at first not to be
sticking your eye into a viewfinder to line up your shots.
Another thing we liked
was the 10:1 optical zoom lens, which is operated by a little button on
the back of the unit. This zoom is comparable in performance to many camcorders,
and offers a nicer selection of shot parameters to give you more flexibility.
A focus ring lets you wrestle manual control from the little droid inside
the unit, and a macro setting lets you get really, really close to the
Need to send images
over the Internet? The Mavica's E-mail mode shrinks the size of your file
to 320 x 240 resolution for fast Internet downloads. Not a big deal, especially
with pictures that already only take up 50K or so, but thoughtful nonetheless.
If you really want
to squint, you can use "Index" mode, when the camera's in "PLAYBACK"
configuration (just a button click away!), to have six thumbnails displayed
on the little LCD at once. And while in "Playback" mode you
can view or delete any image, so the shots that don't quite measure up
can be dumped immediately, saving disk space and making your eventual
editing session easier.
Sony also builds in
four special effects that let you change the look and feel of your pictures.
The "monotone," "sepia," "Negative Art,"
and "Solarization" effects work well, but who cares? More useful
are six preprogrammed "Auto exposure" modes that set the camera
for portraits, beach and snow lighting, and other unusual conditions.
Shuttering to think
The MVC-FD71 also
has variable shutter speeds, from 1/60th to 1/4000th of a second, auto/manual
exposure and white balance, and there's a built in "intelligent"
flash you can use under low light conditions.
The battery is a standard,
Sony rechargeable lithium-ion unit the company says is good for up to
950 shots - and a display lets you know how much time you can expect the
battery to last.
We had only one other
criticism for the "Mavica," and it's one we share with some
Sony camcorders: the lens cap is poorly designed and keeps falling off
the lens, making it of little value.
These criticisms are
minor, however, and didn't detract from your enjoyment of this unit.
In fact, we recommend
this unit highly. At about $1000 Cdn, it's pricey compared to some of
the competition, but considering what you're getting and the overall quality
of this Sony, we don't think it's overpriced.
Specifications (from Sony)
IMAGING DEVICE: Progressive
CCD, 350K pixels (gross)
EXPOSURE: 6 Mode Auto
(Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Beach & Snow, Sunset & Moon, and
MANUAL EXPOSURE: f/-2.0
ISO RATING: 100
WHITE BALANCE: Auto
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60-1/4000
PICTURE EFFECTS: 4
Pre-programmed (Monotone, Sepia, Negative Art, Solarization)
FLASH: Built-In, Intelligent
10 sec. On/Off
LENS: Fixed, 4.8,
35mm Conversion (f=40-400mm)
Focus Ring with 1" Macro Capability
RECORDING MEDIA: 3.5"
2HD Floppy Disc
IMAGE SIZE: 640 x
Diagonal, 84k TFT LCD w/ Solar Window
: 5-1/2" x 4" x 2-1/2"
WEIGHT: 1.18 lbs.
(w/ NP-F330 Battery)
NP-F330, BC-V625 Battery Charger, Arc Soft PhotoStudio, Shoulder Strap
LCS-MVC, (Soft Carry Case), VCL-ES06
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